Purpose & Play
Jan 21
Jan 30 2022
DesignTO projectexhibition in-person

‘Purpose & Play’ is an annual exhibition that explores new prototypes for contemporary life, showcasing the work of eight Canadian designers and studios including Nikki Alagha, Maha Alavi, Melinda Hart, Hi Thanks Bye, Christopher Li Sheung Ying, Dominic Montante, Alison Postma, and Leisa Rich.

In a time when everything can feel the same, how can we inject colour and levity into our lives? Where can we find moments of joy and spontaneity? How can we experience our environments anew after so much time in confinement? 

The exhibition invites designers to consider opportunities for joy, humour, play, multiple functions, adaptability, personalization, entertaining, and other ways domestic objects can be fun to use and fun to own.

‘Purpose & Play’ is organized by DesignTO in partnership with Umbra. Previous editions were ‘Work/Life’ and ‘Compact Living’. A jury will recognize best-in-show with a Best Product award and a cash prize. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to cast their vote to award Fan Favourite.


This year’s jurors for the Best Product award are adé abegunde (Programs Assistant, DesignTO), Matt Carr (VP of Design, Umbra), Dyonne Fashina (Principal Designer, Denizens of Design Inc), and Ana Rita Morais (Chair of the School of Design, George Brown College).

Purpose & Play Live

On Saturday, January 22, join DesignTO and Umbra VP of Design Matt Carr for an online conversation with all the designers, talking about their prototypes, playfulness in design, and finding moments of joy in the everyday. Plus, an announcement of the winner of the Best Product award.


Nikki Alagha, Blume

‘Blume’ is a planter with a customizable trellis that can be linked together with simple threaded knobs. Up, down, sideways and across; users can play and create new structures to help plant friends grow and thrive into any shape and size. ‘Blume’ is made using cement and wood, and can be customized to introduce colour into homes and suit any plant’s needs.

Maha Alavi, Frooot Bowl

The more time we spend inside our homes, the more we crave objects that are not only functional, but also pieces that stimulate our imagination with novel forms, colours, and uses. ‘Frooot’ is a playful new take on an often overlooked kitchen fixture. Made of translucent acrylic, the bowl’s frosted finish allows light to shine through its entire form, giving it, and everything it holds, an ethereal glow.

Melinda Hart, Swing Like No Other

‘Swing Like No Other’ is a playful exploration of triangular geometry designed to address the need for outdoor relaxation within a contemporary architecture setting. The principal triangle acts as the main support system with a secondary triangle to support the bench. Both triangles drape over the pole, like a strap. The side view of the swing exposes two triangles, mimicking the popular swings found in suburban backyards in the 1970s.

Hi Thanks Bye, Pandemic Rollercoasters: Blob

‘Blob’ was born during the dispiriting time of the pandemic. It is a battery powered bubble making machine that is sensitive to touch. ‘Blob’ was designed  to bring some wonder and hope to the gloomy moments in our lives. Its organic shape is inspired by dark clouds but spawns a little joy instead of misery. ‘Blob’ can be hung on any vertical surface with easy access to refill the bubble solution.

Christopher Li Sheung Ying, Iris

Iris is wall-mounted light created using 3-D printing and post-processing techniques. It focuses on using a simple circular shape to provide warm light in all directions. A small oak dowel placed in the centre is used as a natural accent material, as well as to draw in the viewer. This central point complements the motion which is used to turn on the light itself. The user turns the body of the light like a dial to control the intensity of light visible.

Dominic Montante, Turntable

‘Turntable’ is a literal interpretation of its namesake, functioning as both a 12” vinyl player and side table. With the vinyl player re-envisioned as a piece of furniture, the piece aims to provide comfort in the grounded tactility that the analog medium offers in a digital world. The freestanding unit includes a speaker and is battery-powered, allowing for movement around indoor spaces. 

Alison Postma, Repeated Circles Coffee Table

The ‘Repeated Circles Coffee Table’ is a playful addition to any living space. The piece is made from solid white oak, with a fused glass insert, and a dyed veneer shelf. Its asymmetrical design and many disparate elements come together to form a quirky cohesive piece.

Leisa Rich, Paint by No Numbers

‘Paint By No Numbers’ is a way to bring art to the masses by providing unique shapes that hang in different configurations to create a “painting that is not a painting.” L-shaped screw hooks can be arranged to suit any space. Coloured lucite shapes have holes in them to hang on the hooks. The shapes are both translucent and opaque, allowing for beautiful colour overlaps to occur. 


Nikki Alagha, Maha Alavi, Melinda Hart, Hi Thanks Bye, Christopher Li Sheung Ying, Dominic Montante, Alison Postma, Leisa Rich



Who should visitors contact with questions regarding accessibility?
Robyn Wilcox
For projects with auditory components (e.g. talks, film screenings, tours), will there be sign-language interpretation, captioning, and/or live audio description?
Post-talk captioning available through YouTube
Is this venue accessible by wheelchair or similar mobility devices? This includes access to washrooms and all aspects of programming/events.
Can people get to the venue using accessible transit?
'Repeated Circles Coffee Table' by Alison Postma
'Swing Like No Other' by Melinda Hart